Archive for the ‘Expat’ Category

Not what I had in mind

When I wrote the other day about noticing and appreciating what is new, interesting or surprising in my life, this is not what I had in mind.

In Estonia, snow in April is honestly not that surprising. It’s happened at least once during the time that I’ve lived here. But for the past few weeks the air has felt so warm and it’s smelled like spring. Everyone seemed so hopeful and happy that the most lovely time of year was upon us, but as it turned out, winter wasn’t quite done with us yet. At least I get to go on vacation soon…

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Something new in every day

I know I just wrote a post about change, but I feel the need to return to the topic for a bit. I know I rarely post anymore, and I think one of the reasons is that I’ve been living in Tallinn and working at the same job for 4.5 years now. Although new things do occasionally come up, there are very few aspects of Estonian life that surprise me anymore. It all feels so routine now.

All around me I see people experiencing something new. Blog reader Meg has lived in Sweden for a few months and writes about her new Swedish life. I have a few friends who just recently moved to Estonia and fill Facebook with breathless status updates about how fun and exciting it is. My own fiance just got a new job, as did my good friend in the USA– both of them are now in exciting positions that offer amazing opportunities. Seeing everyone else’s changes somehow makes my life seem stagnant… but I refuse to let myself feel negatively about it.

For one thing, I still love my job! I work as a translator, and while I don’t get paid a lot, I enjoy my flexible workplace, my great colleagues, and learning more about the languages I use every single day. So there’s that. Also, it’s not as if nothing in my life is changing– I am, after all, getting married in September! And I’m planning a wedding in Estonia, which is not something I ever would’ve guessed I’d ever do (but I’m so happy that I am).

What I’m trying to say is, I won’t allow myself to think that my life has somehow become complacent or boring. New and interesting things are going on all the time– I just have to notice them! There are aspects of Estonian culture I’ve still never addressed on the blog. I cook new things all the time. And then there’s the once-in-a-lifetime adventure of wedding planning! I haven’t run out of material– for some reason I just haven’t been thinking of my life as fun and interesting lately. Seeing other people discover something new has inspired me to adopt a fresh perspective and find something new and exciting in each day.

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I was going to write a Lent update today, but when looking at posts from Lent last year I discovered this one about J discovering how delicious peanut butter is. That actually never became a problem– he doesn’t eat it on a regular basis so my stash is still my own– but what I was floored by was how the price of peanut butter has changed. Less than one year ago, I wrote that I paid 3.50 EUR for a jar of peanut butter at the Stockmann grocery store (which, as far as I know, is the only place that sells the American brands). Do you want to know how much I paid for a jar from that same store about 2 weeks ago? 5.60 EUR.  That’s $7.50! I know it’s ridiculous, but I was desperate. Fortunately we’re going to the States again in just a few short weeks (I can’t believe we’re going again so soon!) so then I can stock up on peanut butter that isn’t absurdly overpriced.

So the price of peanut butter changing is clearly not so nice. But some change is good– like, for example, J getting a new job at an exciting Estonian company! Our everyday routine is much different now, mainly because he used to work from home so he’d pretty much always be here. Now he works long days and gets home after 7, which means I have some time to myself at home (which used to happen very rarely) plus I’ve been cooking more so that dinner will be ready when J gets home (yes, I’m such a good little soon-to-be-wife). Hopefully some of my cooking will make it onto the poor neglected blog eventually as well.

Oh, one more change just came to mind! Please don’t hate me when I say this (it kind of makes me hate myself a little bit), but I’ve become one of those people who loves exercising in the morning. I used to be a solid after-work-and-on-weekends runner and I thought that exercising before work would make me get sleepy during the day. But somehow I discovered that waking up just half an hour earlier and running before work leaves me feeling amazing for the rest of the day. I know, what an annoying thing for me to say… but it’s true! I must confess that there was also an external factor motivating me to get up in the mornings– every since the new year began it has been so hard to get a treadmill at the gym after 5 pm, but in the mornings? The place is practically deserted, and I rather like the feeling of having the gym to myself!

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Happy Shrove Tuesday, or as the Estonians say, head vastlapäeva! I last blogged about this day a few years ago when we made pea soup, which is one of the foods traditionally eaten on this day in Estonia. The other food associated with today is the vastlakukkel — a lightly sweetened yeast bun with the cap sliced off, topped with a hefty swirl of whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar. Some of them also contain jam under the whipped cream, like this one I picked up on the way home from choir rehearsal this evening. Yum.

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Trader Joe’s

Do you know Trader Joe’s? I’m sure my American readers have heard of it, but European readers probably haven’t. Trader Joe’s is a chain of grocery stores in the United States that sells a lot of gourmet foods, organic products, vegetarian foods, prepared foods and interesting snacks. Prices are kept low because the chain buys products and sells them under its own brand name. In addition to that, it’s  just a fun place. They often come out with new products so you never know what you’ll find when wandering through the aisles of brightly-colored packages.

Now I must confess that I haven’t actually set foot in a Trader Joe’s in years. J and I wanted to visit one during our last trip and ran out of time. (We almost went into one that we saw in Philadelphia, but we couldn’t find the door. True story). Luckily I have a wonderful friend who likes to keep us well-stocked with Trader Joe’s treats, so here are a few of their delicious products we’ve been able to try recently.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from these Lime & Chile Mixed Nuts. They’re a little scary– look at those chunks of dried chili peppers!

While they do have a kick, they’re nothing that two spice-lovers like J and I can’t handle. The nuts are perfectly toasted and the flavors (tart lime and hot chili) are potent, making this a unique and delicious snack. A little handful goes a long way.

And the dark chocolate-covered edamame? These might just be the perfect chocolate-covered snack. In case you didn’t know, edamame are soybeans, in this case dried and roasted (I think). The edamame are crispy and nutty, less dense than peanuts, and lightly salted under the chocolate coating. I think what really struck me was the quality of the chocolate layer— it’s pretty thick, not too sweet, and just delicious. And look, 7 grams of protein per serving!

One other product my friend gave us (but I don’t have a picture of) was the Chili-Spiced Mango— dried mango slices dusted in a chili spice powder. While dried mango is probably my favorite dried fruit, I wasn’t a fan of the sweet-spicy combination in this snack. However, J loved them and I can vouch for how quickly the bag disappeared!

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